This is a photo of my grandmother, Sylvia, my uncle, Ronald, my mother, Marcia, and aunt, Victoria, standing in front of their home in Rangoon in 1966 shortly before Ronald left to study in America. Since 1958, Burma had been slowly strangled by the Socialist military dictatorship of Ne Win. Many who could leave subsequently did. Most of my family scattered across the world, to the east and west coasts of the US, the UK, Australia, even Norway. There’s a mood of regret in this picture, but also looks of fierce determination.
Just reviewed Amy Chua’s Political Tribes for the Evening Standard. I liked how she described America as the rare super-tribe, in which the idea of American-ness both binds and permits vastly disparate sub-groups. And how that unique concept has then blinded America to the importance of tribes during its overseas adventures. I was less convinced by how this applies to America today. But it’s a tautly written and provocative book.